Lo Dubs Showcase
In a festival that included several repeat performances in its seventh year, London’s Dan Richmond, known as Clubroot, was among Decibel’s biggest surprises. His dubstep set at the cozy Baltic Room was steeped in deep abstract chords of claptrap beats, and smooth harmonics. The open-faced rhythms drew a small swarm of people to their feet almost as soon as he began. By incorporating a drone drenched core, he then thickly laid a bold percussive sensibility throughout, having just the right mastery of the mixer to gracefully shape the thumping vibe down. The dual level club was the perfect setting for a make-shift A/V scene with fabrics posing as silver screens hung above the heads of even the tallest dancers.
Optical 1’s set-up at the elegant Benaroya Hall, a classically modern performance space, had Berlin-based composer Robert Henke physically behind the audience. It was a smart choice, focusing the audience on the vibratory, heavy bass drone that began his set. From that grew the trance-inducing stimulus of the artist’s signature deep layering of warm ambience. Images of fields and giant ants overlaid with underwater settings pulsating with tiny bubbles morphed on a screen, as a frenetic ticking beat led way to conductive sounds emanating at highs and lows with a stylish cadence. Murcof delivered a slow and deliberate set that stole from classical music and gave back a bit of a squeaky chair full of broad bass, cello strings, offbeat Latin flourishes that ranged from undulating to slow motion. His work ascended in moments of the psychedelic with a cavernous virtuosity, but a quick pan of the room revealed a split crowd. Some were completely riveted and others heads were reclined in REM.
Mark Van Hoen presented what seemed to be live video sound collages that started off with a genuinely fluid cut-up of Joni Mitchell from her blue period. Van Hoen then added percussive accompaniment from an unknown drummer taken from Iranian television. Each piece was fairly short, like a pop song. Next were layers of players, someone that could be the torso of Little Richard mixed with late ’70s hair rock on one channel and ’80s 4AD (here, presumably the Cocteau Twins). By using source material that drew from the synergy of successive decades, detailing voice and other instrumentation made for a ghostly mash-up—a somewhat brilliant cross section of both Jason Forrest and Christian Marclay.